From scenic picnics to rustic campouts, summer has always been about outdoor dining. In summer 2021, locals and visitors to Oregon can expect far more al fresco choices since restaurants are continuing to take it to the streets to allow for more socially distant seating in the fresh air.
For much of the past year, Portland, Ashland, Salem and other cities have allowed many restaurants to take over sidewalks and even parking spaces to accommodate more hungry diners. With even more seating than the typical sidewalk cafe, these large spaces have been helping restaurants survive amidst Oregon’s limited-capacity rules. They’re also offering more ways for visitors to support local restaurants.
As you get ready to enjoy these spaces, just remember that business reopenings are a work in progress. Before you venture out, please plan ahead; be patient, kind and flexible; wear face coverings and follow other protocols outlined by each business. Don’t forget to tip well!
All year round, Portland’s famous food carts and outdoor-dining spots are part of the city’s culinary identity, so more sidewalk and patio seating during the lovely summer and fall weather makes perfect sense. Try the new Portland Food Cart Finder to search for businesses by type of cuisine, dish, dietary need and proximity. Whether it’s food-cart fare you’re craving or a brick-and-mortar restaurant you’re visiting, here are some of the top spots.
North Portland: In St. Johns, Stormbreaker Brewing has blocked off a side street and filled it with large tables and benches for guests to drink pints of the signature Cloud Ripper IPA. On North Mississippi, sidle up to the new sidewalk seating with beer, brats and pretzels at German biergarten Prost!. Or head one block over and visit sister bar Interurban, which has a couple of additional tables streetside so you can enjoy your fancy cocktail while people- and pet-watching.
Belmont: Beloved Russian restaurant Kachka has transformed into Kachka Alfresca by adding tables to the upstairs parking lot, and it is now serving a new ’90s-inspired menu with fun, snacky dishes like jalapeno popper chicken Kiev and Totino’s Pizza Roll vareniki. Vegan-friendly Bare Bones Cafe & Bar has broken out the slushie machine and commandeered space in front and on the side of the corner building for wooden picnic tables.
Division: A pioneer of Portland’s urban wine-tasting culture, the new, expanded Southeast Wine Collective will welcome visitors to sip a flight and nosh on a cheese and snack plate on their outdoor patio, which overlooks downtown. Check for details on the summer opening and their new location, nearby in Southeast Portland. Bollywood Theater, an Indian street-food restaurant, serves up its tasty biryanis and kati rolls for takeout orders on the patio. The same goes for Olympia Provisions Public House, where visitors can enjoy locally made sausages and other meaty delights at tables expanded into their parking lot.
Portland’s closest-in westside suburb is rapidly expanding its Restaurant Row with creative with outdoor seating. Syndicate Wine Bar has sidewalk seating and umbrella-topped tables in the adjacent parking lot, and Ickabods Bar & Grill is making use of its front patio and has added a roped-off seating section in the parking lot with picnic tables. Just a few blocks away, Boriken Restaurant, one of the only full-service Puerto Rican restaurants in the region, is also doing expanded sidewalk seating. Bistro Royale, Raindrop Taphouse and Afuri have also expanded their dining area into parking spaces.
Beaverton’s 1st Street Dining Commons is another option, where you can order takeout (including closed containers of alcohol) from any downtown business and enjoy it at the covered tables in the closed-off block of Southwest 1st Street, between Southwest Watson and Washington Avenues.
A few blocks north, across Oregon Route 8/TV Highway, BG Food Cartel is a year-round favorite for locals and visitors alike, with dozens of picnic tables, a beer garden, a covered open-air space and more than 30 food carts with tasty cuisines from all over the world. Public parking is available in Beaverton City Library parking lot, nearby.
Hillsboro’s first-ever food cart pod, Carts on Main, is also worth the drive. Located in the lot between Amelia’s Exquisite Mexican Dining and Hillsboro Bar and Grill on East Main Street downtown, the new space includes heaters, lighting, plenty of covered tables and room for five food carts. Currently, diners can feast on Mad Greek Deli, Kama’aina Hawaiian plate lunches and Up ’N Smoke BBQ Pit.
In the heart of Oregon wine country, McMinnville has introduced Dine Out(Side), closing 3rd Street to car traffic every weekend (starting at 5 p.m. on Fridays). The downtown avenue transforms into an outdoor dining plaza, with 20 restaurants serving their favorite dishes al fresco including local gems like Nick’s Italian Cafe and Gem Creole Saloon. Nearby the shaded patio and garden of Bistro Maison is another choice for outdoor dining.
On weekends Oregon’s capital city is closing portions of three streets in the downtown core to allow for more dining space. On State Street, you’ll find local favorites like Ritter’s Housemade Foods, which has added more outdoor sidewalk tables to enjoy an “Oregonzola” burger with rosemary fries. There’s also Wild Pear, for its reliable Northwest cuisine with Asian influences. Taproot Lounge & Cafe — known for healthy bowls, salads and smoothies — has expanded into parking spaces out front and has even added a DJ for a street-party atmosphere. Nearby Court Street is home to brunch destination The Kitchen on Court Street and Venti’s Cafe, where both have placed metal tables and chairs under the illuminated awnings that line the historic district.
Dozens of downtown Eugene cafes, pubs and wine bars now offer cozy seating on sidewalks or former parking spaces surrounded by colorful planter boxes as part of the city’s Streatery program. During the warmer months, get your fill of urban bliss at Streatery locations including Off the Waffle, Tacovore (also locations in Corvallis and Portland) and 16 Tons Cafe. Also in Eugene, the newly expanded 5th Street Public Market is a must-visit spot with plenty of courtyard seating. Grab lunch or a snack from newcomers like NorthWest Burgers or Handel’s Ice Cream, or classics like Marchė & Le Bar and its sister, Provisions Market Hall. For a one-of-a-kind view, head up to Carlita’s Rooftop Mexican restaurant atop the new Gordon Hotel. All year round, Beergarden in Eugene is a tented, family-friendly space to enjoy fare from four food trucks (and 42 taps of craft beverages) with contactless service. Come early, as tables fill quickly.
Springfield, Junction City and Cottage Grove
There’s plenty of outdoor dining outside the city of Eugene, too. Public House in Springfield used to be a church; it’s now a gorgeous pet-friendly space for food pods, a beer hall, an outdoor bar and a whiskey bar. Beer Station in Junction City is a family-friendly brewpub with an array of food trucks outside in their garden area — don’t miss the house-made margarita from their tequila bar. In Cottage Grove, the two outdoor seating areas at Covered Bridge Brewing Group are a welcome retreat, a community gathering space for the brewing as well as Laurel Mountain Coffee, which roasts its small-batch coffee on-site. The ample patio space in front includes custom bike racks; the beer garden in back houses local food trucks for plenty of dining options.
As part of Grants Pass’ “Dine in the District” program, the city on the Rogue River is erecting barriers in parking spots downtown to create protected space for more outdoor tables. This summertime initiative is benefiting restaurants like Bohemian Bar & Bistro, a great spot for a glass of Rogue Valley wine on the new outdoor patio. Wine bar The Twisted Cork and The Haul, a gastropub around the corner, are also both great spots with newly expanded outdoor space.
Just south on Interstate 5, you can find plenty of ways to support local businesses in Ashland during the city’s socially distanced Ashland Summer Celebration, with dates to be scheduled on weekends between July and September. Visitors can roam the main thoroughfare downtown during the celebrations since it will be closed to cars to open up outdoor dining. Look for notable Ashland restaurants like global small-plates specialist Brickroom Gathering House and MÄS, featuring inventive Cascadian cuisine.